Day of Honour: Hurts to relive, but Afghan mission must be remembered
Published Friday, May 9, 2014 5:45PM EDT
Last Updated Friday, May 9, 2014 7:03PM EDT
There can never be complete closure to a military mission where so many Canadian soldiers died, were physically maimed or emotionally scarred. Too many personal horrors still live on, disconnected from an end date on the calendar.
But despite the inevitable slights and snubs for some, the day of honor ultimately served as a fitting salute to the longest military mission in our history.
There’s never been an engagement like our troops in Afghanistan. After a dozen years of fighting, victory was never declared, the enemy remained invisible and death was delivered via explosives buried in dirt roads and detonated by cheap cellphones.
At times, the government seemed bewildered on how to mark the end to this military anomaly. Today they tried to make amends.
The announced mission inscription on the National War Memorial is fitting. The marble tile cenotaph carved with the names of the fallen, which was located under the trees of Canada’s headquarters on the Kandahar Air Field, will be appropriately displayed permanently in Ottawa.
The solemn Senate ceremony, the parade of soldiers and equipment and the goosebump-raising flyover finale – add it all up and today delivered appropriate respect and recognition for the 40,000 who served the mission.
In the end, the emotion of the moment and family reflections on their losses smothered allegations of slapdash planning and partisan sniping.
I had the privilege of embedding with our troops in Kandahar for 12 weeks in the deadly summer of 2007. To join soldiers driving LAVs through white dust in scorching heat and extreme danger was to respect them more than any Canadian back home could possibly grasp. The horror was hammered home during my short stay as nine Maple Leaf flag-draped caskets were ramped onto a Hercules aircraft to send the dead home.
That’s why the best part of today’s celebration was to officially wrap up the mission which hurts to relive but must be remembered.
Our troops can take their rightful place among the ranks of those who served and sacrificed themselves during both World Wars and in Korea.
As public recognition, if not victorious vindication, today’s honor was mission accomplished.